Trapped pensioner perishes in early morning fire

By Leah Hernandez

The quiet village of Non-Pareil, East Coast Demerara, was jolted awake in the wee hours of Friday morning after the screams of a burning 65-year-old pierced through the community. Many rushed to help but they were too late since Rovena Hassan’s two-storey home was already engulfed in flames and she was trapped by the heavy grills on her windows and doors.

What remains of the burnt-out two-storey building

The grills made it impossible for the pensioner to escape and her continued screams while being trapped in the flaming building made it even worse for her neighbours who just stood there helplessly. The fire, which is suspected to be of electrical origin, started around 00:30h and quickly spread through Hassan’s Lot 22 Non-Pareil home.
According to information reaching Guyana Times, after the fire started, neighbours were awoken by the now dead woman’s screams for help as the fire spread quickly on to the neighbouring buildings. The concrete and wooden structure was located between a hardware store and a tire shop.
When this publication visited the scene, Hassan’s neighbour, Travis Pairalall, related that he was jolted out of his sleep by the screams of “fire”. He along with other neighbours quickly raised an alarm and summoned the Guyana Fire Service and firefighters arrived sometime after.

Dead: Rovena Hassan

While they awaited the arrival of the firefighters, neighbours began evacuating their homes as well as making efforts to save both the tire shop and the hardware store which were beginning to burn.
“By the time we come out there was so much people outside already and we tried throw some water on this tire shop because the fire started to spread…it was going over to the hardware store and if it de catch the hardware and hit the tire shop, then all these surrounding houses would’ve been gone. The fire service came, they were prompt actually, they help to save the day because if they weren’t on time then the tire shop would’ve gone and everything would’ve went,” he stated.
A concerned Pairalall added that the fire had reignited within the building that housed the tire shop and it had to be broken into to have the flames put out to prevent further damages.
When the Guyana Fire Service arrived, it was too late to save Hassan or her home, but they were successful in containing the raging fire to just her house.
Neighbours further related that the screams of the pensioner were heard coming from the bottom flat of the burning building but onlookers, who were panicking and frustrated could not have saved her due to the heavy grillwork and intense flames.
“When we tried to sort everything out then we realised the woman is there. Apparently, mommy and some other people heard the screams and after that, they didn’t hear back anything, but nobody could’ve done anything….it could’ve been electrical,” Pairalall added.
The young man related that faulty electricity supply and constant blackouts have been plaguing the area for over a decade with the power company reportedly doing nothing to correct the issue. He explained that while other parts of the village would have electricity, Non-Pareil front would be without power and vice versa.
The elderly woman, who lived alone, was last seen alive by her son, Syed Hassan, on Thursday. She was described as a quiet but friendly person.
Her charred remains are at the Lyken Funeral Home awaiting an autopsy while the Fire Service and the Police Force are conducting their investigations.
Hassan is the second senior citizen to be killed in a fire for this year, the first being 87-year-old Yowani Sasenarine who perished in a fire at her Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara home on February 17, 2019.